Sunday, March 28, 2010

Suffer the children (I)

The book Shepherd's Granddaughter tells the story of the life of a Palestinian girl near Hebron confronted by Israeli settlers. According to this account, "two Jewish groups accuse it of being one-sided".

The book tells a fictional story based on a harsh reality. Israeli settlers in the West Bank constitute a small minority of Jewish Israelis. That small minority includes an even smaller group of extremists, whose behaviour towards their Palestinian neighbours I can only describe as slow motion ethnic cleansing.
International observers have documented the struggles of Palestinians living near the settlements to continue their lives, from going to school to grazing sheep.

Children live this reality every day. They have the same right any child living in a struggling community has, from African American children living through the Montgomery bus boycott to First Nations children in isolated and neglected communities in Canada: to have their story told and heard.

No Canadian who reads stories like these should ever think our country better than Israel. Too many First Nations people in Canada face choices as bleak as those faced by Palestinians in the West Bank of Gaza. Those people who teach this story should also emphasize that most Israelis reject the agenda of the extremist settlers. When we tell these stories, we ought to remember the harsh words Israel's premier Yitzhak Rabin spoke to the extremists after Baruch Goldstein's mass murder of Muslims at prayer at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994:
You are not part of the community of Israel... and many of the people despise you. You are not partners in the Zionist enterprise. You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out. You placed yourself outside the wall of Jewish law.
Handfuls of intolerant extremists do not represent the people of Israel. But they exist, they cause real suffering, and those they cause to suffer deserve to have their story heard.

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